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“Truth is Like the Sun”
Lightspeed Magazine 108
More
“Love Engine Optimization”
The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2018 Edition
More
“The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 3
More
“The Walk to Distant Suns”
Analog Science Fiction and Fact
More
“The Marsh of Camarina”
Shades Within Us
More
“Will You Meet Me There, Out Beyond the Bend?”
Nightmare Magazine 63
More
“In Memory of a Summer’s Day”
Mad Hatters and March Hares
More
“The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
Tor.com
More
“Love Engine Optimization”
Lightspeed Magazine 85
More
“The Singularity is in Your Hair”
Cyber World
More
“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
Nebula Awards Showcase 2016
More
“Demon in Aisle 6”
Nightmare Magazine 38
More
“Saving Diego”
Interzone #221
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“The History Within Us”
Clarkesworld Magazine #42
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“The History Within Us”
The People of the Book
More
“The Bricks of Gelecek”
Naked City
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“The Hands That Feed”
The Mammoth Book of Steampunk
More
“The Great Game at the End of the World”
After
More
“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Lightspeed Magazine and io9.com
More
“The History Within Us”
Clarkesworld Year Four
More
“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
Clarkesworld Magazine #92
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“Cameron Rhyder’s Legs”
Clarkesworld Magazine #98
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“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Nebula Awards Showcase 2015
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“The Garden Beyond Her Infinite Skies”
Clarkesworld Magazine
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The Mist-Breathing Cave

In upstate New York there’s an old railroad line that has recently been converted into a walking trail. The railway was once used to ship fruits and vegetables from upstate farms to New York City, and now a walking trail runs for some twenty miles north and south where the tracks used to lie. The trail wanders through sections of dense woods of the northernmost parts of Mohunk Preserve and emerges now and then to pass the occasional quiet road and sleepy farmhouse along the way. While walking along the trail this past weekend, in a section not far from Rosendale, my wife and I came upon a dark cave hidden in the dense granite cliff. It was a hot summer’s day, well into the 90s, and yet cold air pouring from the cave swirled around our ankles. As we stepped closer, its chill breeze blew across our bodies like an autumn wind foretelling of a frigid winter to come. A steep, slippery path covered in decades of dead leaves sloped down into the recesses of the cave, and it seemed from the footprints and the way the leaves were matted that more than one adventurous person had gone down there. I only descended a few steps before the cold, wet air, the slippery path, and the menacing shape of the dark stones made me turn back.

Not far from the cave is a long trestle bridge that stretches some 900 feet across Rondout Creek. The bridge was once made of wood, but has been reinforced with welded steel that has turned a striking orange-brown with rust. Signs on the bridge warn travelers that a build-up of static charge is common, and as you walk across the bridge, the shock when touching the railing is often a painful experience. I found that the further I went before touching the railing, the more painful the shocks became, and so I found myself “grounding” myself along the railing often.

Hours later, after a five-mile round-trip journey, we returned the way we had come, past the electrified bridge, and we stopped once more beside the cave. Cold air still poured from its mouth, turning to mist in the summer heat. And as we stood there mesmerized by the strangeness of it, a man with an ancient camera on a tripod and clothes to match seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Neither I nor my wife saw where he or his camera had come from. Wearing shoes unfit for the purpose, he descended into the cave mouth, slipping and sliding as he went. We didn’t see how far down he went, nor what he was trying to capture with his ancient camera. But when I looked back, he had not yet emerged.

There are no doubt scientific explanations for what we saw and felt. A deep-earth temperature differential and a geologic accident was responsible for the cold air. The glass & plastic amalgamation that make up the bridge surface caused a build-up of static charge. A film photography enthusiast, complete with period outfit, was trying to capture the cave mist in the dappled sunlight. But such explanations seem inadequate now, and I find, as I think more about our experiences this past weekend, that there is likely much more history to this area than common lore would have us believe.


The Mystical Cows

We had just arrived in sleepy Kandersteg the night after a long journey from crowded Vernazza. After the baking Mediterranean Italian sun, the cool mountain air of Swizterland was welcome and refreshing. Our hotel, built in the late 19th century, sat across from a racing brook (which the Swiss call bachs) along a gently winding street that was sparsely filled with Swiss-style hotels, chalets, and farmhouses. We were here for a hiking tour, and since the group wasn’t set to arrive until that evening, we decided to venture out on our own that morning. The woman at our hotel’s reception desk told us we could walk up to Oeschinensee, a lake some 5100 feet above sea level. “It’s an easy walk,” she said.

What I later came to understand, is that a Swiss person’s “easy” is what I might call “strenuous.” And when a Swiss person says, “That hike was interesting,” what they really mean is that on said hike they feared for their life. (We did not fear for our life this day. That came later.)

View from our hotel balcony

View from our hotel balcony

We found the trailhead not far from the hotel. Swiss trails are marked well with yellow signs and red and white trail “blazes” or painted markers. At first the trail led up a paved road. Easy, we thought. But soon the trail diverted us onto a gravel and dirt path alongside a river. We looked up, between breaks in the clouds, to see a waterfall streaming down the tremendous mountainside. Are we going up there? we wondered. Even higher, on the uppermost peaks, were snow, ice, and glaciers.

Looking down at Kandersteg from the trail to Oeschinensee

Looking down at Kandersteg from the trail to Oeschinensee

The path swerved back toward the mountain, and it was up over rock and root, stone and shrub, switching back here and there. We passed other hikers, who said, “Bonjour,” and “Buona sera,” and “Guten Tag,” and “Grüezi,” as the fog grew thicker and the air colder. Soon we had to don our rain jackets and sweaters, which felt strange, since we had just come from the hot climate of the Italian Ligurian coast. Up we went, climbing higher and higher, past dormant ski lifts and wide pastures, and through thick alpine forest, for about two hours, until the fog was so thick we could barely see ten feet in front of us. But we kept going, troupers that we were.

In the thick fog

In the thick fog

Soon, we began to hear a faint jangling, like those of wind chimes in a breeze. We seemed to reach a plateau, a grassy pasture scattered with stone. Suddenly, we were surrounded by cows. Dozens of them, grazing in this strange, misty pasture, their bells jangling from their necks, with no one else around. Just yesterday we were sweating on a beach, and now we are here, on a foggy mountain surrounded by cows. The moment was surreal, and we both paused, mesmerized by the sound. The cows, wagging their frayed tails, seemed unconcerned by our presence, almost as if we weren’t even there.

Cows in the mist

Cows in the mist

It was a supremely mystical moment. The air smelled of manure and cow and rain and grass, was cool and wet, and all was quiet except for the sound of the bells ringing. You can listen for yourself.

Eventually, we broke ourselves free of the entrancing and mystical sound of the cows to make our way to Lake Oeschinen. The fog hung low and thick over the water, like a blanketing shroud. A few people hung around the lake, but it was too cold to swim.

Fog over Oeschinensee

Fog over Oeschinensee

Eventually, we headed back down, passing the mystical cows, the wet and gnarled tree roots and dripping pines, back to the hotel to meet our hiking group. It was our first day in Switzerland, we hadn’t even gone on our first full hike yet, and already we had found magic. The next day, we would hike up to the same lake, where the clouds would parted to reveal the sun. Imagine our surprise, when we climbed up higher than we had the day before, looked down to the valley below, and saw this:

Oeschinensee in full sun

The fog had burned away by the next day’s morning sun, and the full glory of the mountains were revealed. And this was but one of dozens of such vistas we would have on our hikes across the mountains of Switzerland. The journey had just begun.

More to come soon…


“Truth is Like the Sun”
Lightspeed Magazine 108
More
“Love Engine Optimization”
The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2018 Edition
More
“The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 3
More
“The Walk to Distant Suns”
Analog Science Fiction and Fact
More
“The Marsh of Camarina”
Shades Within Us
More
“Will You Meet Me There, Out Beyond the Bend?”
Nightmare Magazine 63
More
“In Memory of a Summer’s Day”
Mad Hatters and March Hares
More
“The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
Tor.com
More
“Love Engine Optimization”
Lightspeed Magazine 85
More
“The Singularity is in Your Hair”
Cyber World
More
“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
Nebula Awards Showcase 2016
More
“Demon in Aisle 6”
Nightmare Magazine 38
More
“Saving Diego”
Interzone #221
More
“The History Within Us”
Clarkesworld Magazine #42
More
“The History Within Us”
The People of the Book
More
“The Bricks of Gelecek”
Naked City
More
“The Hands That Feed”
The Mammoth Book of Steampunk
More
“The Great Game at the End of the World”
After
More
“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Lightspeed Magazine and io9.com
More
“The History Within Us”
Clarkesworld Year Four
More
“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
Clarkesworld Magazine #92
More
“Cameron Rhyder’s Legs”
Clarkesworld Magazine #98
More
“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Nebula Awards Showcase 2015
More
“The Garden Beyond Her Infinite Skies”
Clarkesworld Magazine
More